Being Stuck in the Past

College Football Betting: Being Stuck in the Past

By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper,

Any longtime college football fan has to be careful to update his perception on players and teams as they age. In all aspects of life, you see a general reluctance on the part of the public to acknowledge the passage of time. That’s why you hear people constantly referring to things as being “a few years ago” when it’s actually closer to a decade. Perhaps fully acknowledging the passage of time forces us to take note of our own mortality. Whatever the case, you see this a lot in how people perceive sports, including college football.

As a rule, it takes the general public too long to acknowledge the erosion of teams that were great in the past, but are now beginning to fade from peak-form. It doesn’t even have to be that big of a fall-off, as in the world of college football wagering, even a little dip in a team or player’s ability can be enough to cover or not cover spreads. In all sports we bet, failing to note erosion can be costly at the betting windows and that goes for college pigskin too.

Every sport has this dynamic where a player’s name-power outlasts his merit. The power of his identity will always have more shelf-life than the quality of his performances. Properly accounting for that will not only save us a slew of lost wagers betting on that team, but could help us win some bets when we see that the true value of a team outweighs their public appeal. And even in college football, a player that starts his career off well can see his potential go wayward for any number of reasons.

We see this time and again in college football betting. A team will be getting a point spread and you break down the game. It becomes clear that a team’s name-power is what is contributing to the spread being the way it is. And it’s not based on what that team is doing, but rather on what that team did in the past.

Reputation means something. It could land you some better recruits and get you some nice TV spots. And bettors will always be inclined to bet those teams. So the bookies don’t need to go out of their way to make those point spreads attractive. So you combine a point spread that is artificially high due to reputation with the fact that the team isn’t a vintage manifestation of its former self and you can start to see how you’re not getting a good shake of value stick.

The measure of a good college football bettor is determined largely by how much he can separate himself from the “public consensus.” Being a force at the betting windows is really an exercise of how much of an independent thinker you can become. That means we are constantly able to create insight and analysis that lies in opposition of what the common school-of-thought is saying.


A big part of creating that independent though is by seeing the writing on the wall before every single other person does. We don’t need to see a nationally-treasured football team lose a bunch of games before we realize they’re not up to par. We don’t need to see a running back average 3.5 yards per rush over the course of 750 carries before thinking he’s a spent force. And we don’t need to see a college team struggle for 10 years before thinking they’re not necessarily the frontrunners to win the big game every year.

When we begin to notice slippage on the part of a team or single player, we can start to clearly see the gap between what the public bets and actual reality. Then we jump into that gap and start winning a higher percentage of wagers. That’s the whole idea–to find the discrepancies in what we know to be true and what the public favors. That comes down to noticing things before others do and the willingness to admit it and act on it. It’s just hard. It’s not easy to acknowledge the writing on the wall. Well, it didn’t happen overnight and we can’t afford to be too slow to acknowledge it.